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WHAT IS A CAG?
A Community Advisory Group (CAG) is an important tool for enhancing community involvement in the Superfund process. CAGs serve as a public forum for representatives of diverse community interests to present and discuss their concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process. A CAG also provides opportunities for EPA to present its work which CAG members can disseminate through their various contacts and constituencies.
A CAG can assist the EPA in making better decisions at a Superfund site, while offering a unique opportunity for the EPA to hear – and seriously consider – community preferences related to environmental investigations, remediation activities, and overall environmental and human health goals.
Since the establishment of the Bonita Peak Mining District (BPMD) Superfund site in September of 2016, there have been several conversations in the community about developing a Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the site. CAGs are part of Superfund law (CERCLA), but CAG formation and operating procedures are left up to local communities. To be recognized as a CAG, a list of members is provided to the EPA. EPA’s two criteria for approving a CAG are that members represent a diversity of interests within the community and that they live in the affected area (in this case within the Animas River watershed). While a CAG is strictly an advisory group, it serves as an official, long-term mechanism for local citizens to engage with the EPA and its partnering agencies.
Concerned and engaged citizens decided to further explore the idea of a CAG by developing a ‘CAG Formation Committee’ in the summer of 2018. The CAG formation committee was made of representatives of citizen organizations that have been involved with water quality issues in the Animas River basin for many years. (committee members are listed in the ‘Formation’ section.) Those same citizen organizations (local collaborative groups and non-profits) had initiated an early alternative to a traditional CAG through the Citizen Superfund Workgroup (CSW). The CSW was a public involvement process designed to inform citizens, promote discussion and develop locally-generated desired outcomes for the BPMD site. Formation of a CAG is the natural extension of the work done by the Citizen Superfund Workgroup.
CAGs can fulfill different roles at Superfund sites depending on community interests. The role of a CAG may change over time contingent on activity at a site and the interests of a potentially changing membership. The Bonita Peak CAG will be Colorado-based and will focus on Superfund activities impacting the Animas River within the state. It will not focus on the potential effects of the Gold King mine water release which occurred August of 2015, a year before the Superfund listing.
One of the main objectives of this CAG is to disseminate information about activities at the BPMD site to the community and to provide community input back to EPA. Related to that objective, this CAG will utilize local expertise in reviewing and commenting on technical documents associated with the site. Characterization and mine remediation in the upper Animas River basin began twenty-five years before it was listed for Superfund in 2016, and the community already possesses a great deal of data, knowledge and experience regarding the site.